Gulf vet aids younger vets


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Cate Hartmann’s journey to the UI hasn’t been easy.

In 1990, she was forced to leave her fifth-grade son behind when her National Guard unit was deployed to Iraq for the first Gulf War. During 11 months overseas, she endured a divorce. And after returning home, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a painful and potentially paralyzing disease.

Some VA hospitals at the time were poorly equipped to care for women; a few even lacked enough beds for female patients.

Hartmann recalled a time when she was forced to use a broom closet as her hospital room. That experience fueled her personal desire to return to school and aid other female veterans, she said.

“I can’t do it all,” Hartmann said. “But one thing I can do is help veterans with their own struggles that I’ve been through. I believe the older generation of vets must do everything we can to help the younger generation survive.”

Hartmann is now a counselor at the UI Veterans Center, helping veterans primarily through one-on-one support.

Of the 300 veterans on the UI campus, around 60 are female, said Registrar Larry Lockwood.

Since January, Hartmann has been pursuing a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at the UI, a field she said is beyond her comfort zone.

After returning from war, she worked as a certified public accountant — in addition to doing some computer programming — for 25 years.

“I wasn’t used to dealing with emotions or feelings,” she said. “But the benefit of helping these veterans is so rewarding.”

In her current role, she works mainly with veterans who want to return to school. She aids them in adjusting to regular student lifestyle and helps them collect the bounty of benefits they’re promised on their return home.

College is a completely different world for many, she noted.

“They are used to lives of responsibility, seeing their friends die, regimentation,” Hartmann said. “Then they return to class, and it’s such a laid-back atmosphere.”

In addition to helping them with benefits and adapting, Hartmann said she enjoys listening to whatever problems and concerns veterans have — mostly just to check in on how they’re doing.

“It might be immediately when they return, or it might take five years, but eventually something triggers a memory, making them nervous or upset,” she said.

Hartmann draws on her own experiences at a veteran when helping other students vets.

And the veterans benefit from her unique point of view.

“Ms. Hartmann has been in contact with four of my soldiers who are overseas,” Lt. Norma Cabanas said. “She has been great with talking to them, listening to what they have to say. I am honored to have met her.”

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